N.Y. Yankees 74-64 2½-game lead
The wild-card favorite despite the decline of Aaron Judge, whose on-base-plus-slugging percentage at the All-Star break was 1.139 and is .707 after. The Yankees traded for slugging 3B Todd Frazier and picked up starters Sonny Gray and Jaime Garcia and relievers Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson. Now all they need to do is score a few runs, because their bullpen is superior. OF Aaron Hicks’ return to the disabled list, however, doesn’t help.
Wednesday: at Baltimore, ppd.
Remaining games: 14 home, nine road. Six games each against Toronto and Tampa Bay.
Twins 72-67 ½-game lead
Sellers at the trade deadline, the Twins rallied behind long-awaited offensive surges from Byron Buxton and Jorge Polanco, fueling an increased home run attack. Joe Mauer and Eddie Rosario are flirting with .300, making up for the loss of All-Star 3B Miguel Sano (shin). Taking a chance on ageless starter Bartolo Colon proved genius, but the fourth and fifth starters have been shaky. Are there many believers in this team?
Wednesday: Twins 10, Tampa Bay 6
Remaining games: 14 road, nine home. Seven games against Detroit.
L.A. Angels 72-67 ½ game behind
Los Angeles lost its entire starting rotation to injuries during the season, but a few of them are returning to health for the stretch run. Star center fielder Mike Trout missed 39 games because of a torn ligament in his thumb. Trades for Justin Upton and Brandon Phillips addressed needs. Andrelton Simmons’ breakout at the plate puts him among the top shortstops in the league. Now, can the Angels protect leads? Bud Norris was the ninth-inning guy before.
Wednesday: Oakland 3, Los Angeles 1
Remaining games: 12 home, 10 road. Six against Houston, six against Seattle.
Baltimore 71-68 1 game behind
Baltimore has had some of the worst starting pitching in the league and the offense has sputtered for stretches. But Manny Machado, the AL player of the month for August, has turned it on to keep the Orioles in contention. Second baseman Jonathan Schoop deserves some MVP votes. This is the classic feast-or-famine offense. Dangerous power, plenty of strikeouts. If Baltimore can get any starting pitching, it could be a threat.
Wednesday: vs. Yankees, ppd.
Remaining games: 15 road, seven home. Start 10-game road trip Friday.
Texas 70-69 2 games behind
There’s not a lot of playoff buzz surrounding the Rangers because they have been stubbornly mediocre. They split with Atlanta on Monday and are above .500 for only the second time since June 29. That makes it more understandable that they dealt staff ace Yu Darvish to the Dodgers before the July 31 trade deadline. Losing 3B Adrian Beltre to a season-ending hamstring injury didn’t help, but they could make things interesting if 2B Rougned Odor can heat up at the plate down the stretch.
Wednesday: Texas 12, Atlanta 8; Atlanta 5, Texas 4
Remaining games: 14 home, nine road. Seven vs. Seattle, six vs. Oakland.
Kansas City 69-69 2½ games behind
This a shell of the team that won the World Series in 2014. The bullpen isn’t as nasty. The offense can fall into a slump at the snap of a finger. The rotation isn’t deep. But many of them have postseason experience and will be a tough out down the stretch. The Royals need to avoid the offensive droughts that have plagued them, because they might have to outhit their opponents. Staff ace Danny Duffy is out because of a pronator strain and not close to returning. He’s also dealing with a drunken driving charge.
Wednesday: Kansas City 13, Detroit 2
Remaining games: 13 home, 11 road. The 11 road games are consecutive.
Tampa Bay 70-71 3 games behind
The Rays get lost among the blue bloods in the AL East, but they can be a pesky team down the stretch. Logan Morrison has had his long-awaited breakout season. Corey Dickerson is a real threat. Tampa Bay has a little power, a little speed and a little savvy. The bullpen boasts Sergio Romo, Tommy Hunter, a former closer in Steve Cishek and an All-Star closer in Alex Colome, so they can protect leads. Chris Archer leads a decent rotation. Tampa Bay will be a factor if it has a lead in the late innings.
Wednesday: Twins 10, Tampa Bay 6
Remaining games: 11 home, 10 road. Six each vs. Boston, Yankees, Baltimore.
Seattle 69-71 3½ games behind
Seattle looked to be a dangerous team at the start of the season, with a nice 1-2 pitching punch of Felix Hernandez and James Paxton. But both are on the disabled list, as are other starters Hisashi Iwakuma and Drew Smyly. Yet they linger on the fringe of the race and are one hot streak away from making things interesting. But to become a threat, the Ariel Miranda-led rotation must carry the load. Nelson Cruz, in the middle of another good season, can carry the offense.
Wednesday: Houston 5, Seattle 3
Remaining games: 13 road, nine home. Finish the season with three at Angels.